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What the Next Generation Wants from a Leader

What the Next Generation Wants from a Leader

February 10, 2014

Employees are distributors’ eyes and ears in the market, Bunzl Distribution USA President Pat Larmon told attendees at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors’ annual summit in Washington D.C. at the end of January. Larmon was speaking as NAW’s chairman of the board.

“Our companies’ greatest assets walk out the door every day at 5 o’clock, and we don’t know for certain whether they’re coming back the next morning,” Larmon said. “Scary thought, isn’t it?”

He said that distributors have to do a better job of informing their people about how critical they really are to their success.

“They are our ambassadors, our front line in determining what our customers value and what they are willing to pay for. As an industry, we have a collective need to do a much better job of engaging, training and retaining our greatest asset,” he said.

Later in the program, Seth Mattison of Bridgeworks spoke about bridging the generational gaps in the workplace to fully optimize the skills and talents you have. Too many leaders don’t look for the positive characteristics the youngest generation in our work force brings to the table, he said.

His point: “You see what you seek out.” If you see a creative, high-energy group, that’s what will show up, he said. And it’s critical to think about how your business might respond; it’s estimated that in about six years, millennials (born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s) will make up about 50 percent of the total workforce.

What are millennials looking for in a leader? According to Mattison, they are looking for someone who can:

1. Help them navigate a career path.

2. Give them straight and consistent feedback. Quarterly or annual reviews are no longer enough.

3. Mentor and coach them. It’s a two-way street, Mattison said. They want to be able to ask questions and seek out advice and direction.

4. Sponsor them for formal development programs.

5. Be comfortable with flexible schedules. With mobile devices, workers are constantly plugged in, responding to email even when they are at home. With this as a backdrop, workers feel less tied to a 9-to-5 workday.

Read about the impact of the generational shift in the MDM article, Generational Shift Drives changes in Technology, Expectations in Distribution

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